Unreasonable antipathy is the weird cousin of the black beast

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I hate mourning doves. No, that’s not quite it. I wouldn’t call it hate. Bulbous birds irritate me. I see them waddling dumbly under the bird feeder and suddenly I’m consumed by feelings of…well, let’s call it unreasonable antipathy.

It’s strange. I mean, why would anyone be upset by a bird?

Or by a camera? I collect old film cameras. A few were a bit pricey, but most are pretty ordinary, the kind of cameras people bought in the 1960s and 1970s for snapshots. But what I don’t have – what makes bile go out every time I see one – is an Argus C3.

Every time I see an Argus C3—a cheap, square, American-made 35mm camera—I want to ride it with an 18-wheeler. And I don’t even have a commercial driver’s license.

File under: Antipathy, unreasonable.

When the pandemic was in full swing, I tried to stifle all negative feelings. A lot of people have had it much worse than me. Why waste precious moments consumed by feelings of…well, not rage, but some kind of annoyance. Life is too short, right?

Yet, God forbid, I never see a Mourning Dove wearing an Argus C3.

I mentioned these strange feelings to my lovely wife.

“Oh, you mean pet peeves,” she said.

Well, not exactly. Pet peeves usually have an underlying reason. If your pet peeve is wet towels left on the bedroom floor, it’s probably because the towel isn’t drying properly and it could damage the carpet or hardwood.

Pet peeves have something in common with unreasonable antipathies, and that’s degree level. You wouldn’t say, “You know what my pet peeve is? Heart disease.” The pet peeves aren’t really that serious, and neither are the antipathies I mentioned.

It would be more of a problem if I was unreasonably unsympathetic to, say, respecting traffic laws.

Unreasonable antipathies are almost visceral, chemical. They remind me of how some dogs react to other dogs. To their humans, there’s no apparent reason for two dogs to growl and tug on their leashes when they pass each other on their walks. Dogs just rub the wrong way.

It’s similar to how some people just can’t stand the sight of James Cordon.

Mine are unreasonable antipathies, but are they inexplicable those? Was my mother frightened by a flock of mourning doves while I was in utero? Or chased by a pack of really low-end paparazzi wielding Argus C3s?

Or do I see in the Mourning Dove (chubby, fearful) and the camera (common, cheap) despised aspects of myself? Am I projecting hidden self-hatred?

I decided to consult a professional. I probably should have called a therapist. Instead, I called an ornithologist: Bruce Beehlerassociate researcher in the bird division of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Are there any birds you feel an unreasonable antipathy towards, Bruce?

In fact, he says, a few years ago he didn’t like mourning doves.

“These mourning doves would do their hoo hoo mating call around 5:30 every morning starting in April, right next to our bedroom,” he said. “It was brutal. They woke me up at 5:30 a.m.

“I bought a white noise machine that whistles to block it out,” he said.

“There aren’t many birds that I don’t like,” Bruce said. “Some of them don’t interest me. For most people who love birds, the rarer they are, the more interesting they are.

Bruce said he doesn’t much like grackles, starlings and blackbirds that suck up all the seeds he puts out in the winter.

As for his least favorite bird, he said, “I guess I’ll have to choose the feral pigeon. If you looked at a picture and didn’t know what it was, you would think it was not unattractive. But they are damn messy and an invasive alien species.

Bruce reserves his strongest antipathy—probably more reasonable than unreasonable, actually—for people who throw cigarette butts on the ground.

“Birds will pick them up and eat them,” he said.

It’s a shame. Unless it’s mourning doves. Stupid and silly birds.

What do you think? Do you have unreasonable antipathies? Do you practice on the most ridiculous things? Do you share your home with someone who does? Send me the details – with “Unreasonable antipathy” in the subject line – to john.kelly@washpost.com.

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